here is in this world no such force as the force of a person determined to rise,” said author and activist W.E.B. Du Bois. “The human soul cannot be permanently chained.” These and many other inspirational words from Black leaders in a wide variety of fields are gathered in the latest self-improvement book from Joseph Holland ’78, MA ’79.
Titled Make Your Own History: Timeless Truths from Black American Trailblazers, the volume offers short biographies of more than 100 notables, emphasizing quotations with motivational messages.
It shares wisdom from such famous names as Booker T. Washington, Oprah Winfrey, and Barack and Michelle Obama—as well as the late Marvel star Chadwick Boseman, athletes Kobe Bryant and Simone Biles, music icons Beyoncé and Jay-Z, and numerous others.
But many of its sources are less familiar, like Olaudah Equiano, the 18th-century author of a memoir describing the horrors of slavery; early 20th-century educator Nannie Helen Burroughs; engineer Norbert Rillieux, who revolutionized the sugar-making process; and Maggie Lena Walker, the nation’s first female bank president.
“I was looking for people who made a difference, who broke down barriers and opened doors, who led purposeful lives,” says Holland, a longtime author, activist, attorney, and entrepreneur. “These principles are all about building the best version of who you are. Whether there’s a crisis or not, you can always improve.”